Discover Ivenacker with Forester Ralf Heckel
For more than 20 years, Forester Ralf Heckel has been in charge of Ivenacker Forest, which boasts 1000-year-old oak trees and an impressive treetop walkway. Alongside his faithful companion, the eight-year-old Cocker Spaniel, Greta, Ralf Heckel loves to convey nature, history, and the importance behind conservation efforts.
What are three good reasons to visit the treetop walkway in Ivenacker?
Ralf Heckel: The treetop walkway in Ivenacker is truly something special. Firstly, we meticulously designed the walkway to provide visitors with a close connection to the treetops. It was a technically challenging task, but the result is an authentic treetop walkway that allows you to experience the forest from an entirely new perspective. Secondly, the walkway's placement is carefully aligned with the forest's oak trees, so it harmonizes with the surroundings and adds something unique to the area. Finally, the thematic orientation of the facility is also something quite special, where we combine cultural, artistic, and forest-related aspects. One personal favorite project is our "Hutewald Parade," which is an interpretation of Bremen's Town Musicians sculptures. These symbolize our own forest-related figures and add a creative dimension to the experience.
Ivenacker Forest is a national treasure, and visiting it is like stepping into a piece of living cultural and natural history. Its status as the first national natural monument in Germany confirms its uniqueness and beauty, and visitors can immerse themselves in the forest's history, which has had a significant influence on both local and national culture.
What makes the impressive oak trees in Ivenacker special and interesting?
Ralf Heckel: The oak trees in Ivenacker have always been a fascination. They are not only beautiful but also remarkable in size and volume. Already back in the 1800s, they were described with admiration; for example, the strongest Ivenack oak was compared to other European giants. Its volume is impressive and makes it one of the most powerful oak trees in Europe.
This forest truly offers something unique also in terms of conservation and education; for example, natural forest grazing is a crucial part of our conservation efforts. We use deer and Konik horses to care for the forest by reducing competition between oak trees and other tree species. This management concept is also shared with students from forestry schools who visit the forest to learn about the balance between forest history, nature protection, and forestry. Our trained forest educators also collaborate with schools in the region to teach young people about the connection between forest history, nature protection, and forestry.
In addition to the treetop walkway, what other activities would you recommend visitors try when exploring the forest?
Ralf Heckel: There's plenty to experience in Ivenacker Forest. Visitors can explore the old enclosure where ancient breeds of wild boar live freely in the oak forest. There are also adventure trails with nine stations leading to the western part of the game reserve. And, of course, there's the Game Reserve Café and a snack bar serving local produce from the surrounding forests.
How has the forest influenced the culture in the region?
Ralf Heckel: The forest has a rich history and has deeply influenced the culture in the region. The oak trees have been not only a source of material resources but also an inspiration for artists throughout the ages. Their aesthetics and symbolic significance have shaped images, poems, legends, and stories, thus playing a central role in regional, national, and European culture.
As a final note, could you tell us a bit about your dog Greta?
Ralf Heckel: Certainly. Greta is my faithful companion who loves to explore the forest and is always up for adventure, especially when it comes to chasing pigs, deer, and foxes. She's an important part of my life and work here in the forest.